Archive | The Writing Corp Hacks RSS feed for this section

Inspiration By Free Association

11 Sep
Isaac Asimov Quote

Isaac Asimov Quote (Photo credit: Psychology Pictures)

Isaac Asimov is widely regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction, and as one of the better writers in recent history. He was also one of the most prolific authors every. He wrote hundreds upon hundreds of short stories, dozens of novels… I could go on. A lot, basically. One of his most recognized accomplishments was without a doubt the Foundation series. If you haven’t read that, then A, what have you been doing all your life, and B, go read it now. Seriously. Right now.
Besides being a generally brilliant author and fount of creativity, Asimov also had a useful tool which he used often. Inspiration by free association. He once said that he would open a book in two or three places, choose a few words and random, and build a plot based on those words.
There’s method to Asimov’s madness. Being stuck usually means that you have absolutely no idea where to start, but the actual starting point is not necessarily important in itself. So free association can often get you kick-started in a direction you would never have thought of.
Next time you want to write something but haven’t the faintest clue where to begin, try Asimov’s trick. Open a book and choose some words. Inspiration by free association. It even rhymes – what more can you ask for?

Beware of Rules: Passive Verbs By Zombies

24 Aug

Let me start by saying that I am very sorry for being in the land of the lost. We went to South East Asia on an adventure and it never occurred to me that “the rainy season” would impact contact with the outside world to such an extent. Add to that… the rainy season means I got sever fungal infections and other interesting things that knocked me to the sidelines when we got home. Now… I’m human again.

Yesterday, I saw a picture on Facebook. It was captioned something like… you can tell when you are using passive voice in verbs if you can put By Zombies at the end of the sentence and it makes sense.

I guess I can agree with this in premise. For example…

I was eaten by zombies
I am being eaten by zombies
My dog was stepped on by zombies

These, the rule holds true.
However, like any self respecting grammar rule, it has its gotcha.

Holy cow, did you see that? She just ran by zombies.

This one is an active verb *ran* yet the sentence makes perfectly good sense and is grammatically correct as written.

I remember when the vowels were
A E I O U and sometimes Y and W too
And I before E Except after C… then they added… or when sounded like “ay” as in neighbor and weigh.

having handy dandy ways to remember things like that are great. And they get me out of some iffy grammar situations. But you still have to double check. I know that I am often accused (lovingly I hope) by friends of being a grammar nazi, but I had an awesome teacher in 9th grade that I truly liked (I was only one of a few who did). Miss Stuck was an English teacher. She taught me grammar, how to expand my vocabulary, and that The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.

Grammar isn’t always easy. And heaven knows English is among the worst (especially US English) but it’s something you CAN have fun with if you want. Just be careful how “by” is being used if you chose to decide if the the sentence was written by zombies, or if the logic of the sentence went right by zombies!

Finishing Touches

11 Aug

Albert Einstein once said that true genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Words cannot describe how true that quote is for writers. No, wait. Actually, words can

Manuscript [73.13.8]: Pencil Sketch by Albert ...

Manuscript [73.13.8]: Pencil Sketch by Albert Einstein Illustrating Light Contraction (Princeton, NJ, 1934) (Photo credit: MagnesMuseum)

 describe how true is. In that case, the following words will.

If you’re a writer, I know one fact about you – you have about two hundred unfinished projects, ideas which you were really excited about when you first thought of them, but lost your enthusiasm after approximately three paragraphs. A short story which has a protagonist, a title and two sentences, or a play which has an in-depth analysis for the characters and nothing else. Every writer has these, but here’s the important bit – unfinished projects divide into two subcategories.

The first is ideas which you thought were good, but didn’t stand up to the selection process of actually getting written. You thought they were good at first, but realized after five minutes that they weren’t going anywhere but southward. And so you shelved them. Or drawered them, I guess. Whatever. The point is, not every idea is a winner, and it’s not good to waste time on projects that won’t ever pan out. And that’s fine.

However, there’s the second kind of unfinished projects, and these are very different. These are projects which you started, but forgot where you were going with them, or just ran out of steam. The hardest part of a writing is not starting. It’s not even getting past writer’s block. No, the hardest part is picking up a half-finished idea and continuing it. It’s isn’t easy, but if you want your writing to go places, it has to be done.

So I’m sure you have a few half-baked cakes in your writing oven. Open your shelf, or your drawer – well, your computer, probably – and dust a couple off. Give them a second look. See what looks as if it has potential, and give it another try.

Random Inspiration (finding the smallest details that you need in creative places)

3 Jun

So, I’ve been thinking again (I hate when that happens) about writer’s block and where ideas come from.  I know how to feed my dragon when I have an idea and I just can’t get to the details.  And that usually works for me very well.  But there are so many times when there are hundreds or thousands of butterfly words chasing each other around in my head and I don’t know what order they want to take, or what subject they want to settle on. I just can’t find one subject that will make them happy.

Other times, I have kind of an idea for a setting where I want something to happen, but I really want to have a more concrete idea, a more real picture of what I’m struggling with.  I can’t quite get it right in my mind’s eye.  And when that happens, I can’t get passed it until I can figure out what might be the tiniest detail.

There are incredible places on line where you can find random pictures that can feed your imagination.  You can search for pictures of things, like red door or ugly car.  Or you can find random pictures that speak to you.  Flickr will let you find pictures that were randomly recently uploaded.  They can fuel your thought process, or you can decide that your character is the one uploading them and figure out what he might be thinking as he turns then lose into the wild.

The internet can be an incredible place to waste time.  But it can be a font of information to tap into.  Use whatever tools that might fall to your hands (photography books in the library, google images, or the two places I enjoy hunting:

http://www.flickr.com/explore

http://photobucket.com

You’ll Never Be Perfect

5 May
procrastination

“Because to procrastinate is easier than working.”

It’s true. You never will be be. But you can use the gold standard of perfection to better yourself, to push yourself forward. How? One word – procrastination. Let’s explain that. Procrastination is something we do in order to avoid working. It’s natural, but it can be pretty habit-forming and time-consuming. You might find yourself  with six spare hours, a quiet house, and a blank computer. You’ll think – ‘Perfect! All the peace and quiet I need to polish off the last three chapters of my thriller mystery novel!’. Six hours later, you’re still on Reddit. Or Facebook. Or whatever you do to waste time. Because to procrastinate is easier than working.

The subject of procrastination has been, as we say in the field, ‘run into the ground’. So we won’t go into too much detail about the subject. In fact, we’ll cut the procrastination and get right to the point – how to avoid it.

If you write a lot, or even a little, there’s probably several projects you’re working on, a few separate things you’re writing. So write them down. Make a little list of what you could be writing. For me, it goes something like this – a post for The Writer’s Corp, a Hebrew short story for a book, a chapter in another book, a post for my site, or an article for a newspaper. These are all things I need to write. So I make a list of them.

The secret to solving procrastination is to define your goals. Knowing exactly what you have to do is the first step to getting them done. So write down all the things you have to do, and start with the one that looks the most enjoyable to write. Try to do all the things on your list.

Now, the point is that you will not accomplish everything on your list. You might only do one or two of them. Don’t let that discourage you – remember, just a minute ago you were having trouble starting. The trick is to get going, to start writing – to start is the hard part. Aim higher than you can realistically do at once, and just knowing what you want to write can be an excellent way to get yourself writing.

At the end of the day, you may not have accomplished all your goals. Not every checkbox will have a check in it. But you’ll have made progress, and you’ll have beaten your procrastination.

When Nesher Ehrman succeeds in beating his procrastination, he also writes poems and short stories, which can be found at his site.

Spiderman Could Destroy Superman in a Fight

5 May
superman imageLet’s open with a question. Why would I give a post on The Writing Corp’s page a title like that? Spiderman has nothing to do with writing. Neither does Superman. How are they related?
Good question. The thing is, though, it’s not about two random superheroes, each of which either could or could not hypothetically take each other in a fight. It’s about the title itself. (And, anyways, Spiderman doesn’t really stand a chance against Superman, we all know that. What’s he going to do, shoot web at him?)
Let’s talk about titles.
Why are titles important? They’re just a way of telling stories or books apart from each other, aren’t they? Well, no. Titles are much more than that. A title is to a short story what a face is to a person. Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, an article – even a blog post – the title is always the part people will see. Whether the title is good will determine if the title is just the first part that people will see of your work, or the only part.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said “don’t judge a book by its cover”. That saying is patently false. You should always, completely and absolutely, judge a book by its cover. The cover is what the author chooses to show you as an illustration for his book. An author makes an informed choice about his cover art and design in order to pull in potential readers. The cover is there so that you can judge the book. And the same rule holds true for titles.
So when you write something, whatever it is, make sure that the face of your work is the best part. Make the title engaging, informative, or even provocative. Don’t forget – people are choosing whether to read your writing based on those few words which you choose for your title. So make it good. Steal the stage. Provoke. Dare. Intrigue. Inspire.
And absolutely never, ever, forget, that Superman would beat Spiderman any day of the week.
To read more words by Nesher Ehrman, pay a visit to his appropriately titled website at nesherehrman.wordpress.com/

 

Writing in the Real World

20 Apr
art of writing

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

I wonder what the percentage of lead characters in novels and in movies are writers. I’ll bet it’s one of the more popular professions in the fictional world. Being a writer seems like an easy job. On the screen, they hardly ever show the writer writing. He or she is usually busy receiving the accolades from adoring fans about a piece that is already written and published, or the scene shows the excitement of beginning the quest for information. But they hardly ever show the actual writing. That’s because actually writing is never as pretty as thinking about writing, or getting an idea to write about, or having written. It is the crucial step, though. Thinking about writing does not make one a writer. And one can’t reap the rewards of a well-crafted piece without the writing of it.

Writers usually don’t look their best while writing. They look a little daft and unkempt, truth be told. When I’m writing, I generally haven’t put on makeup or combed my hair. I talk out loud to myself throughout the whole process. And a good portion of the time is spent doing no writing at all, but thinking deeply while performing an inordinate number of facial expressions. I wouldn’t pay to watch that.

Writing seems sexy. It seems interesting. It seems rewarding and challenging and exciting. But that’s the fictional version. Writing in the real world is often tedious and under appreciated and poorly compensated. Writing in the real world takes way more time than most people would imagine. Most of real writing is editing. Most real writing is thrown out in a quest to make it better. Most real writing is pretty lonely work.

But having written, and written well…

That’s another story.

I See You’ve Put Your Pen Down…

14 Apr

quote about writingBecause it’s hard. Because you’re busy. Because the words don’t come to you, because you’ll never be good enough, because you’re a worthless, hopeless, loser. I want you to pick it up again, physically or mentally. Pick up the pen, Right Now.

You don’t have to write. Just hold it in your hand and feel it for a second. Remember what it was that got you hooked on writing, that made you want to write more. Remember the rush.

Now feel the fire start in your belly. Feel the burning behind your eyes, feel the full force of your emotions. The beating of your heart, the clenching of your soul. The tightening of your fist as your dreams weigh down on you.

You want to write.

Don’t you dare put that pen back down. You are a fighter. The words come to you through a haze of pain, they bleed from your fingertips and scratch across your brain. Is it worth it? Are your dreams worth this?

Yes.

If you want to be good at this – if you want to make words dance for you, jump across the page and set themselves on fire for you, you’ve got to pay them in blood and tears and sweat.

You’ve got to sit down and write.

And you will.

Rowan S. R. is an author-creature at The Writing Corp. To read more of its writing, check back here or hop on over to Rowan S.R’s blog.

Know Your Audience

10 Apr

Know Your Audience
By Linda Ricke

In today’s environment of internet blogging, where a post can travel across the world in a matter of seconds, a writer does not always know who will be reading his work. Back in the day, when print was the main medium, it was easier to determine who the reader was.

It is just as crucial for the writer of today to figure out to whom he is targeting his message. Wordsmiths cannot say all things to all people, and the sooner one faces this fact, the more quickly he will gain a loyal following.

This is not to say that writers can only have one audience for their work. By all means, write for different people. For example, if someone is writing a piece for parents of young children, he might decide on topics about potty training and play groups, keeping in mind that his readers are likely to be sleep-deprived and seeking a voice of experience or solidarity in a time when childrearing can seem all-consuming. For an article geared towards parents of teenagers, he might talk about factors which should be considered when purchasing automobile liability coverage or how to handle the role of parenting a sexually active high school aged child. Both writers are writing for parents, but the audience is completely different.
If one is writing for personal reflection or spiritual matters, one would want to use lots of descriptive adjectives and write about feelings and emotions, paying particular attention to empathizing with his readers who are most likely dealing with similar issues in their own lives. If the audience is primarily twenty-somethings, it would be appropriate to use slang and trendy catch phrases. If one is writing for other writers, he could use terms like narrative drive and character development. If it is quilters whom one is trying to reach, it is important that one uses the correct terminology used by those who practice the craft.

A writer may not always know who is going to click onto his site, but if he decides ahead of time who is he is writing for, he can be much more successful in spreading his message, choosing the words appropriate to his target demographic.
Above all, write about what you care about. Write about what you know. Put yourself in your writing. And know for whom you are writing.

You can read more posts by Linda at lindaricke.wordpress.com and People For Others at loyolapress.com

Realizing Your Writing Potential; Part 1

10 Apr
Let me describe a scenario.
You’ve written something. A poem, a short story, a short fiction novel. You show it to a couple of people, and those people like it. Not quite sure what to do with the piece, you put it away, start working on something new. You don’t even really revise, not much more than a quick once-over, and then on to the next project.
Then, one day, out of the blue, you get a phone call. The caller introduces himself, and tells you he’s a representative for a certain publishing house. Somehow, through one of your friends, they’ve seen your work, and they think it’s some of the best material they’ve ever read . Cutting straight to the chase, the caller says they want to publish your work. “Don’t worry about a thing,” he reassures you, “we’ll take care of everything.
Sure enough, the publishing house edits, corrects, fixes and polishes your work, and they publish it a month later. Within a week, the published material is a complete hit. Thousands of people buy it, your name is a household fixture, and you and your publisher stride off into the sunset.
End of scenario.
Now. If you are a writer, put a hand over your heart and tell yourself you’ve never wished for this to happen. Be honest. We all have.
Back to reality. Statistically, if you’re a written-content creator, your shiny writing career isn’t really where you want it to be. You’ve written a lot of stuff, moving on from inspiration to project to whim, but most of it is either forgotten, dismissed, or languishing in a desk drawer somewhere. Taking up 143 kb of memory in one of the folders on your computer.
At this point, the question is – why. Chances are, it’s not because you’re a bad writer. You might have some pretty decent material. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we all sort of get on with the business of writing new stuff and wait for the above scenario to play out. That’s the mistake. We want to be writers, and have the rest take care of itself.
So what do you do? How do you get content out there? How do you move your actually-decent, hard-won, unedited work out into the real world of material which people have heard of? How do you turn it into something real?
That’s what this series is about. In the next few installments of this series, we’ll walk you through the whole process from ‘status quo’ to ‘where you want to be as a writer’. However, be warned. Don’t expect the work to get done just by reading this. Actual energy and work will be required. So if you really want to be a writer, if you want to make your writing career a reality, jump aboard, and we’ll see you in “Realizing Your Writing Potential; Part 2”.
Nesher Ehrman is an author for The Writing Corp. To see mre of his material, check out his blog at nesherehrman.wordpress.com/
%d bloggers like this: